How to back up your favourite iOS games, before they're removed from the App Store

Peace of mind

How to back up your favourite iOS games, before they're removed from the App Store

The App Store is a cruel and unforgiving place. Favourite games, like BioShock and SpaceChem, can disappear in a moment's notice. Treasured memories become lost, like tears in the rain.

And it seems to be happening more than ever right now. Games vanish because they are incompatible with new operating systems like iOS 9. Or the developer goes out of business.

Luckily, you can backup apps yourself, so you don't have to worry about them suddenly vanishing off the store (and your purchased list). Here's how to keep those treasured games around for good.

Step 1 - Download iTunes 01

Sorry, but you're going to have to deal with iTunes to do this. It will be worth it, though. Grab the software for PC or Mac and install it.

Step 2 - Download the game 02

Find the App Store. Choose apps from the list of libraries in iTunes, using the buttons in the top left, (it looks like the letter A - you may need to hit the ellipsis to find it), and then pick "App Store".

Use the search bar to find the game you want to save and then download it through iTunes. Or, use the Purchased list (click your name to find it) to get easy access to your collection.

Step 3 - Find the app in your library 03

Now find the app library, by choosing "My Apps" from the options up top.

Here, you'll find all the apps that have been transferred from your iOS device to your computer (and any apps you have downloaded through iTunes). Find the one you want, right click, and choose "Show in Finder".

Or "Show in Windows Explorer" if you're using Windows.

Step 4 - Put that IPA somewhere safe 04

You'll now be presented with a .IPA file. This is the game in question, and is coded with your iOS user credentials. You should be able to install it on any iOS device you own, even far in the future.

So store that IPA somewhere safe. Chuck it on Dropbox, or stash it on a USB memory stick. It's now on you to keep that game around for eternity.

Step 5 - Restore the game 05

Okay, so it's 2067. The robot apocalypse has been thwarted. You want to relax in your cyberbunker with a little Drop 7. But, egads, it was removed from the App Store when Zynga was overtaken by robots.

No worries. Find that old IPA file and drag it into the app library.


Plug in your iOS device and then start dragging the game icon - you'll notice a bar appear on the left with your device. Drag the icon onto the device.

It will then install to your iOS gizmo in seconds.

Step 6 - Help! The app has already been removed 06

Okay, so the app has already gone from the App Store and your purchased list, meaning you can't download it through iTunes. Don't panic: if the app is still on your device you may have some options.

Unfortunately, the "Transfer Purchases" option no longer works with devices that are rocking iOS 9 so you can no longer send apps from your phone to your computer with this handy method.

You could attempt to use "sync" in iTunes. But do so at your own discretion - it's all a bit dodgy.

If you're using iOS 8, just plug your device into your computer and load iTunes. Use "Find", then "Devices", and then "Transfer Purchases from…" to send all the apps on your phone or pad to your app library.

If you don't have the app installed on your device then you are, I am afraid, screwed. If the game is gone from your purchased list on the App Store then you have no (legal) options for getting the game back. Sorry!

Mark Brown
Mark Brown
Mark Brown is editor at large of Pocket Gamer